Did you know a 51-mile river runs through the city of Los Angeles? It might not be immediately recognizable as a river, but it's there. In a drastic attempt to prevent flooding in the early 1900s, the Army Corps of Engineers essentially turned the entire river into a giant drainage channel by encasing it in concrete. This article, originally posted on Metropolis Magazine, investigates landscape architect Mia Lehrer's vision to remedy the situation by transforming the desolate space into a public greenway, and a celebrated feature of Los Angeles.
From the offices of Los Angeles–based landscape architect Mia Lehrer, located near the western edge of Koreatown, you might not even know that Los Angeles has a river. It’s not visible from here — instead we can see other things L.A. is known for: the Hollywood sign, traffic, billboards, a dense urban grid that runs forever. In fact, unless you are right up against it, you may not see the river at all. In its current form, it sits as the abandoned, Brutalist evidence of the city’s past battles with seasonal flooding, an expedient way to move water quickly to the sea. To many, it’s more like an urban-design crime scene of missed opportunities and missteps, begging to be corrected. If Lehrer has her way, it will be corrected so that Los Angeles, the city with the huge drainage channel, becomes Los Angeles, river city.